Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rendering Birch Oil

          Many folks ask me what I use to protect my wooden handled tools and the best answer in this day is just go buy some boiled linseed oil or use some other type natural oil like olive oil. However, in a wilderness environment these things will not be available to us so what are we to do then? The best thing is to use an oil extracted from a Tree, there are trees world wide with oils inside them, it just needs to be extracted. In the US Birch is by far the best source of a natural finish used to protect wood and leather. Birch oil is waterproof, insecticidal, preservative, and smells fabulous! So how do we extract this wonder of the natural world? It is easier than you might think. You will need 2 Containers of metal preferably that you don't mind using only for this process as it is messy. I was lucky enough to find 2 square containers the same size, one tall and one short.

This is ideal for the process, but any 2 containers will work as long as once fits snug atop the other and can be sealed with a lid. In this lid you will punch a small hole as you would a char tin, except this container will be upside down and the hole will allow oil to drain into the 2nd container as a catchment..

          The Lower container (catchment) is placed below ground level with the upper container turned upside down with the drain hole down on top. You will then fill in some earth around the bottom container and build a fire around the top container. Build a nice size fire so it will burn long enough to extract the oils (time depends on size of container and amount of bark) make sure the bark container is stuffed as full as you can get it to obtain the maximum amount, it takes allot of bark to make a little oil. When the fire has burned down you can then carefully remove the top container, reveling the catchment with the rendered oil.

 For Ax handles and leather use warm and dip a rag as you would any other oil and spread thin rubbing into the wood or leather, the oil also makes an excellent water proof lure for Beaver.. As the solution cools it will get tacky, if you need to store it can be stored like this by placing a lid on the container, to use again just warm it up on coals. If you desire to make Birch Tar, a great natural adhesive, you will need to further render the oil buy low heat and stirring to release the flammable chemicals by evaporation. It will begin to thicken as it is heated and become pasty, it can then be formed on a stick or in cubes as tar. In the state of oil it is flammable and can be used also as a fuel, but you don't want it to catch fire if you are using it for tar as this will make it brittle.


  1. Dave, you makes these things look very easy. I am just learning about trees. Is there any birch local to our part of Ohio?

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  2. Black Birch, look near standing water areas, not as good as white birch but it does work

  3. Have you ever experimented with a primitive method that does not use metal cans? I have been part of some experiment doing so with so far poor results. Any ideas?

  4. If you did'nt have metal and were doing this primitive I would think that special clay pots would be the best bet

  5. Can you use dry birch bark from long dead trees for this, or is it necessary to have it from living/freshly fallen tree? I wanna try this for a while.

  6. Hi Dave,
    Great that you have started this blog. I have watched and learned a lot from your youtube channel as well as your Pathfinder School. Tonight I am starting my own adventure (30 continuous winter nights in an unheated tent – just south of the Arctic Circle.). Be sure I will try to remember the things that I have picked up from you.

  7. I'm curious, as PeterL. I've seen videos on YT claiming you need only use dry wood to extract the oil by this method. Is this true Or does it matter?


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